Vocabulary deficit debt reading check analyze causes

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Vocabulary deficit debt Reading Check Analyze Causes Why were members of the Third Estate dissatisfied with life under the Old Regime? Peasants formed the largest group within the Third Estate, more than 80 percent of France’s 26 million people. Peasants paid about half their income in dues to nobles, tithes to the Church, and taxes to the king’s agents. They even paid taxes on such basic staples as salt. Peasants and the urban poor resented the clergy and the nobles for their privileges and special treatment. The heavily taxed and discontented Third Estate was eager for change. The Forces of Change In addition to the growing resentment among the lower classes, other factors contributed to the revolutionary mood in France. New ideas about government, serious economic problems, and weak and indecisive leader- ship all helped to generate a desire for change. Enlightenment Ideas New views about power and authority in govern- ment were spreading among the Third Estate. Members of the Third Estate were inspired by the success of the American Revolution. They began questioning long-standing notions about the structure of society. Quot- ing Rousseau and Voltaire, they began to demand equality, liberty, and democracy. Economic Troubles By the 1780s, France’s once prosperous economy was in decline. This caused alarm, particularly among the merchants, factory owners, and bankers of the Third Estate. On the surface, the economy appeared to be sound, because both production and trade were expanding rapidly. However, the heavy burden of taxes made it almost impossible to conduct business profitably within France. Further, the cost of living was rising sharply. In addition, bad weather in the 1780s caused widespread crop failures, resulting in a severe shortage of grain. The price of bread doubled in 1789, and many people faced starvation. During the 1770s and 1780s, France’s government sank deeply into debt. Part of the problem was the extravagant spending of Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette . Louis also inherited a considerable debt from previous kings. And he borrowed heavily in order to help the Ameri- can revolutionaries in their war against Great Britain, France’s chief rival. This nearly doubled the government’s debt. In 1786, when bankers refused to lend the government any more money, Louis faced serious problems. A Weak Leader Strong leadership might have solved these and other problems. Louis XVI, however, was indecisive and allowed matters to drift. He paid little attention to his government advisers, and had little patience for the details of governing. The queen only added to Louis’s problems. She often interfered in the government, and frequently offered Louis poor advice. Further, since she was a member of the royal family of Austria, France’s long-time enemy, Marie Antoinette had been unpopular from the moment she set foot in France. Her behavior only made the situation worse. As queen, she spent so much money on gowns, jewels, gambling, and gifts that she became known as “Madame Deficit.” Vocabulary tithe a church tax, normally about one-tenth of a family’s income Module 13 518

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